Provence in May 2019

This year eight intrepid travelers joined Annette, Rita, and me in a beautiful farmhouse in Pertuis, Provence. The owners converted the farmhouse, complete with stables and a few outbuildings — one of the bathrooms still had the feeding trough within it. There were many nooks to explore in this home with a unique spot for meditation in one of the smaller buildings and an excellent great room for yoga practice. We were able to practice yoga outdoors on the patio when the weather was a little warmer, and we had several dinners outside too. It was really a lovely setting to rest and restore, and enjoy the amazing French countryside.

Our farmhouse in Pertuis
Lunch in Aix
Cezanne’s inspiration!
Inside Cezanne’s studio
Colorado of Provence. It was a little scary out on that ledge, but worth the climb.
Some of our hikers at the top of the mountain

Next door to our farmhouse was a horse farm. These lovelies were huge! Percherons are just a little smaller than clydesdales.
This is part of an ancient cedar forest on top of the mountain. It was such a calming forest. There were signs asking visitors to keep silence to maintain the meditative vibe. It was ethereal.
Yoga! Yes, we did lots of yoga. It was a special treat in the afternoon sunlight.
“Colorado” means red in Spanish (I am told). Other hikers left these cairns for us to enjoy.

India Travels

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, so I want to get you caught up on the 2019 trip to Southern India with Roaming Buddha’s Rimmi Singh and myself. I took over 300 photos, and it is difficult to choose which ones to show here, but below are some highlights from the last trip.

Our group at Arjuna’s Penance on the Bay of Bengal at Mahabalipuram
Arunachalam – the sacred mountain where Ramana Maharishi reached enlightenment
Lakshmi giving a blessing to one of our travelers in Pondicherry. She’s good luck!
Ready to meet Nataraja in Chidambaram!
Our group of travelers standing together in front of relief sculpture of the Pandava brothers at Mahabalipuram
Kali Temple in Chidambaram. Kali is often seen with blood dripping from her mouth. We got it on our feet. Really though, it’s kum kum (koom-koom) powder and it is auspicious.
The hotel pool in Thanjavur. So refreshing, and yes, that is an outdoor bed on the far right.
Yes, we do practice yoga during our travels too. How do you think we keep our energy level up so high? 😉
Birthday celebration for one of our travelers!
Implements from our homa ceremony (fire ritual) for auspiciousness.
Everyone needs their very own garlic truck. No vampires here.
Children from the school at a tea plantation in the Periyar mountain area. This is the second time we’ve visited their school. We brought them backpacks, umbrellas, and ice cream.
Fishermen in Kerala. Love the colorful boat.
Final day before our flight home. This is at the Taj in Kochin; two of our travelers enjoy the infinity pool.

Next year we will visit northern India once again. Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Rishikesh and Haridwar. Join us!

The Joy of Child’s Pose

How did you get here? Close your eyes and surrender. The hurt that we embrace becomes joy. 
 -Rumi

For the past five months I have been dealing with fluid in my knees. I think it began with a long flight overseas and back (did I mention I am obsessed with India? See here, here, and here) where I was cramped in an economy seat for hours without much movement. At first they were only painful with some restricted movement, but after an anniversary weekend in NYC walking everywhere in not the greatest shoes (go see the World is Sound exhibit at the Rubin and The Great Comet!) and a bit of landscaping with a shovel into the hard Cheverly clay, my knees became two little orbs of sharp, burning, stabbing pain.

Needless to say, there was no child’s pose for me.

My yoga practice really changed. Instead of yoga postures each morning, I became fast friends with my tennis ball. If you’ve been to my class, you’ll know that fascial release is one of my favorite things, and all you need is a humble tennis ball to support you in this endeavor. So instead of coming to my mat for yoga postures, I would press and roll the tennis ball into and over hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, even on the outside of my feet to help open the peroneal muscles, IT band and tensor fascia latae. This tennis ball rolling, making space in and around the knee joints, felt really good relative to the constant pain and it was about all I could do for a while. My meditation was in a wide-legged seat, upavista konasana, sitting up on blankets with rolled towels or blocks for support under my knees.

A yoga pose I found really helpful was elevated pigeon pose. With my back foot on the floor, I would place my front shin on a bed or raised surface. You have to spread the toes of the front foot wide and draw the pinky toe back toward the knee to do this safely when there is knee pain. Going slowly, I would sink in to the sensation and breathe with it, allowing time to release gripping and holding, and believe me, there was a lot of gripping and holding.










This kind of practice, patience, massage, and acupuncture began to offer results and my knees became not so cranky. Yesterday, slowly, with toes active and pressing into the mat, I was able to slowly lower my hips toward my heels and, even though I was very wary of not going too far, it felt like heaven. In child’s pose it was as though the earth swallowed me up and held me in her embrace, reassuring me that this pain is just a phase, and like many things in life only temporary. But it takes work, patience, and persistence to overcome.


Anxiety and the Brave Warrior

This week in class we’ve been learning the story of Virabhadra — the ferocious and terrifying warrior that arose out of Shiva’s anguish at the loss of his beloved Sati. Virabhadra is the namesake for all those Warrior Poses we do in class, Virabhadrasana I, II, III, the Humble Warrior, and more.

virabhadraBriefly, Shiva and Sati were insulted by Sati’s father, King Daks’a, who never liked Shiva and certainly did not want his daughter to marry him because Shiva was an outcast from society. He is both the Lord of Meditation and the Lord of Destruction, and as such would dress in rags and cover himself in ash. He had long, unwieldy dreadlocks, hung out in cremation grounds, and was often surrounded by goblins. After Shiva and Sati’s marriage, to spite them, Daks’a hosted a fire ceremony, an auspicious occasion, but did not invite Sati or Shiva due to his lack of love for Shiva. Sati found out about this while the ceremony was taking place, and so she rushed to her father’s home in protest and, sitting dignified in her meditation amid the crowd, she called up her own inner fire so powerfully that she immolated herself.

At the moment of her death, the worlds shook. Shiva knew exactly what had happened. He howled in anguish and went into a rage. He ran to the fire ceremony himself and began destroying things at the party, Lord of Destruction he is. In his misery, he ripped a dreadlock from his head and threw it on the ground, and out of that lock of his hair arose a fearsome warrior, Virabhadra. He was as tall as the sky and as dark as thunderclouds. He wore garlands of bloody skulls and had the most formidable weapons. Everyone knew to run and hide when Virabhadra appeared. This brave warrior finished the job of destroying the fire ceremony for Shiva and he even lopped off Daks’a’s head.

Kelly Virabhadrasana IAs in all of the Indian tales, this story begins in the middle and ends in the middle too. Shiva grieves for eons while Virabhadra goes off doing warrior-like things. Ultimately, Virabhadra stands for courage and potency, the definitions of the Sanskrit word vira. He is born of the Lord of Meditation’s heartbreak, and he is the one who will bravely step into the fire in order to set things right. In our own lives, his energy represents our courage to stand up and face the things we would rather not face. He is the innate potential within us to wield our own power in a way that restores balance to our lives. He is our own fear and agony and he is the ability to overcome it.

Kelly Vira II ReversedSo, anxiety. People experience anxiety in different ways, and therefore there are different ways to address it, but often it is best to look at the source. On many occasions, anxiety is the manifestation of some deeper trauma — a loss, grief, fear, or even anger. When a strong emotion is buried deep, we may even forget the thing causing the emotion, but we are left with the anxiety: a gripping around the heart, a tension in the throat, a “deer in the headlights” immobility. Yoga addresses the physicality of the experience of anxiety.

Sometimes the person might need more activity, a flowing practice that is connected to the breath to help move the tension out of the body. Sometimes the person might need more stillness, to inwardly address what is coming up for them. It depends on the person and the situation. Either direction takes courage. Through yoga practice and even breathing techniques and meditation, one can develop the strength of inner fire, the potency to step courageously into the world, or into one’s own mind, and face the deeper source of the anxiety. A warrior pose with some steady, deep breathing may help.

img_3072If you are experiencing anxiety, first be kind to yourself. Remember that feelings are like waves in the ocean, they come and they go but they need time. And, try some yoga. If you are not sure where to begin, contact me, let’s talk. Together we can find a doable practice that is suitable for your needs and goals. Relief is possible.

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